How to make béarnaise sauce

It’s hard to beat a perfectly cooked steak served with proper, homemade béarnaise sauce and frites. It’s very similar to making a hollandaise sauce, but with the addition of the aniseedy flavoured herb tarragon.

Use our photo guide to master this French classic, and find links on the page to some great recipes.

How to make béarnaise sauce

You will need:

  • 125g unsalted butter (keep the butter wrapper)
  • 50ml white wine vinegar
  • 50ml dry white wine
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 3 large free-range egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon
  • Squeeze lemon juice
  • Warm water (in case of splitting)

You’ll also need…

  • Balloon whisk

1. Start the béarnaise by clarifying the butter. Melt in a heavy-based pan over a low heat. Skim any solids off the surface and discard, then cool – the milk solids will settle at the bottom. Spoon off the yellow clarified butter into another heavy pan, leaving behind then discarding the white solids. Keep the clarified butter warm over a very low heat.


2. Clean the original heavy-based pan, put the white wine vinegar, white wine and shallot in it, then bring to the boil. Bubble until reduced by three quarters, then set aside until just warm.


3. Tip the shallot reduction into a heatproof glass or ceramic mixing bowl, add the egg yolks, then beat vigorously with a balloon whisk until foamy. Set over a pan of simmering water – the bowl shouldn’t touch the water. Whisk for 2-3 minutes until smooth, creamy and increased in volume.


4. Remove the egg mixture from the heat. Pour the melted clarified butter into a jug or pouring bowl, then pour into the egg mixture a little at a time, whisking continuously. If the mixture becomes very thick and looks like it’s about to split (it will have a greasy sheen), whisk in a little warm water, then continue adding the butter.


5. Season, then add the chopped tarragon. Taste and add lemon juice if needed. To keep the béarnaise warm, take the pan of water off the heat and put the bowl back on top with a piece of cling film touching the surface of the sauce.


See our recipe for boneless rib-eye with béarnaise sauce.

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